I was reminded recently of a movie I watched, probably at least ten years ago, called “The Perfect Storm.” I remember very few details of the actual story in the movie, but I can clearly recall the intensity of emotions that I experienced as the crew of the commercial fishing boat find themselves surrounded by a storm that refused to let them out. No matter which way they turn, they cannot avoid or escape the fury of the wind and waves. Eventually, the vessel encounters an enormous rogue wave, and the captain decides the only way to survive is to try to climb it – full power ahead.
Last Sunday, our pastor spoke about the storm that Jesus and his disciples encountered when they were in a less equipped fishing boat out on the Sea of Galilee. These were experienced fishermen—they knew the sea, and they had faced storms before. But this storm was different. The original Hebrew word used to describe the storm was tempest, which is a violent windstorm. Their small boat was caught in the middle of a whirlwind of waves, and the disciples didn’t think they’d survive.
Where was Jesus? He was with them—sound asleep in the back of the boat. There was no bottom of the boat, where he could stay dry and unshaken by the waves. The boat was sinking, so I’m sure Jesus must have been getting wet as the disciples desperately tried to bail out the water. But, exhausted from the hours of teaching and healing and leading people to see the heart of his Father, he slept, unafraid.
You likely know how the story ends. Jesus is woken by the frantic disciples, and He rebukes the storm. In an instant, there is peace. The wind retreats, the waves subside, and the fear disappears just as instantly from the hearts of the men who, seconds ago, believed they would die. Immediate peace.
Our pastor gave us a difficult challenge. What would we have done, in that circumstance? It’s easy for us to look at that story and wonder why the disciples were so afraid. After all, Jesus was right there with them, right? But his question drove into my heart: “Who is Jesus in YOUR storm?”
We all have storms that we face in our lives. We find ourselves in a place where it seems like there is no way out. No way to “rescue ourselves,” And despite the fact that we know in our minds that Jesus is with us, right there in the “back of our boat,” we feel overwhelmed and afraid.
Yesterday, I spent the day with my younger sister at the Juravinski Cancer Centre. She is beginning her third chemotherapy drug trial. Although she has had too many appointments, tests, and treatments in this hospital to count—and we’ve shared a lot of difficult days together there—this was by far the worst. As I watched my sister have the drugs administered, and within hours become violently ill and wish in those moments not to be alive, my spirit was crying out to Jesus, yelling at him in the back of the boat saying, “Jesus! Are you sleeping? Don’t you care that we’re drowning?” My sister was suffering and my heart was breaking, and I wanted him to stand up and fix it!
After Jesus calmed the storm with his disciples, he asks the disciples a question. He says, “Where is your faith?” As I’ve resumed my daily work activities, and my sister is recuperating at home for a few days before her next treatment, I’ve had to ask myself the same question. Where is my faith? Where is my Jesus, when I’m feeling surrounded by the storms, feeling alone? Am I alone? Is Jesus with me? Is he in the back of my boat? Can I call out to him? Does he hear me? Do I believe he cares, and will take care of me and those that I love? Or am I trying to paddle through the waves and bail out the boat all on my own?
I don’t have answers. Storms are difficult. Exhausting and terrifying at times! But even as I sat with my sister, holding her sick bag, making sure she remembered to breathe, wiping her face with cold cloths and fighting to stay strong as she weathered her storm, I wrestled with my own inner storm and had to ask myself, “Who is Jesus in MY storm?”